Guinea Pig Health and Safety

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Location

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Guinea pigs belong inside. This will encourage human/cavy interaction and make the pigs a more integral part of the family. Choose a bright room close to household activities, and place the cage out of direct sunlight.

Litter Training
Prospective guardians often ask how easy it is to litter train a guinea pig. Success is relative, and generally depends on the ability of the guardian to anticipate a cavy’s habits. An ideal litter area would be a somewhat private tray filled with bedding topped with soft hay, replaced daily.

Roommates
Cavies should not be housed with rabbits or other species. Rabbits, frequently suggested as cage mates, are a poor and potentially lethal choice: not only do they have different nutritional requirements, but a rabbit’s powerful hind legs can injure or kill a small cavy. Your cavy’s roommate should be another cavy.

Exercise
Make exercise a part of the daily routine. Hide favorite foods and place shelters and obstacles in an enclosed, pig-safe bathroom or kitchen area (secure cords and wires first). On pleasant days, guinea pigs will enjoy being outside for supervised playtime. Place them in a sturdy, protective enclosure on a clean, grassy part of the lawn not used by dogs. Be sure to provide adequate shade and water.

Neutering
A boar can be neutered to enable him to live with a sow. Because both spaying and neutering are more complicated in guinea pigs than in other companion-animal species and can have poor outcomes, it is important to find an experienced exotics veterinarian who has done many of these procedures successfully. Some people prefer to keep the sexes separate or care for only one sex.

“Spaying or neutering can certainly improve and ensure the health and well-being of the average cavy,” observes Serafina Cupido, a registered veterinary technician in the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and longtime cavy guardian. While cavies are not routinely neutered, neutering may reduce the incidence of such medical problems as impaction in boars and ovarian cysts, pyometra, and some cancers in sows.

Breeding is especially risky for the sow because the pups are born large, fully furred and ready to run. The mother generally carries several offspring and her weight may double, putting stress on her circulation system and organs. Even with the best care, sows can suffer from dystocia, hypocalcemia, a prolapsed uterus, or pregnancy toxemia. Complications from breeding may kill as many as one in five sows, according to some sources. Since many cavies already need homes and because of the risks to the sow and her young, purposely breeding cavies is never recommended.

Hazards
Guinea pigs do not need and should not be given the mineral wheels or multivitamins that pet-store staff may recommend. Nor should they be provided with exercise wheels or exercise balls, which may injure their spines and feet.

 

Lyn Zantow maintains an informational cavy care website and active message board at www.guinealynx.info. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her two guinea pigs, Nina and Snowflake.

Reprinted from ASPCA Animal Watch, Spring 2004 Vol. 24, No. 1, with permission from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804

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